Credit Cards With Elite Car Rental Perks

These credit cards will get you the perks of rental car elite status without the hassle of having to earn it.
Dec 3, 2021

Many or all of the products featured here are from our partners who compensate us. This may influence which products we write about and where and how the product appears on a page. However, this does not influence our evaluations. Our opinions are our own. Here is a list of our partners and here's how we make money.

Among the biggest travel industry changes driven by the COVID-19 pandemic: a strong demand for rental cars — yet not enough supply. Travelers as of late have reported big airfare deals, only to find that rental cars are sold out (or outrageously expensive, as one traveler experienced when her Hawaii rental car reservation ballooned from $570 to over $2,300). Some say we’re in the midst of a rental car apocalypse. It’s gotten so bad that in some cases, even limos are cheaper than rental cars.

Luckily, holding rental car elite status now might save you from potential rental car fiascos down the road. Though exact benefits vary by company, rental car elite perks include discounts, complimentary upgrades and the ability to skip the line. And you might actually have elite status already, even if you’ve never rented a car before. That’s because many premium travel credit cards grant automatic elite status benefits at certain rental car companies.

Here are some of the best credit cards that offer automatic elite status benefits at certain rental car companies:

The Platinum Card® from American Express

American Express Platinum Credit Card
NerdWallet rating 
Learn More

If you have The Platinum Card® from American Express, you’ll get complimentary premium status for multiple car rental programs, on top of other benefits like car rental discounts.

Here’s what you’ll get, broken down by rental car company:

Avis Preferred: This is the lower of the two tiers of earned Avis Preferred loyalty program status. ​​Its perks include:

  • The ability to bypass the rental car counter.

  • The ability to earn Avis Preferred Points on qualifying Avis spend.

Hertz Gold Plus Rewards: The Platinum Card® from American Express members get their own tier of elite status through Hertz with unique perks. They include:

  • The ability to bypass the rental car counter.

  • The ability to add a spouse or domestic partner for free.

  • Complimentary vehicle upgrades.

  • A four-hour grace period on rental returns.

  • A 10% points accelerator with Hertz Gold Plus Rewards points.

National Car Rental Emerald Club Executive: This is the middle of the three tiers of earned status via National Car Rental’s Emerald Club. ​​Its perks include:

  • No second driver fees.

  • A faster earnings rate toward free rental days.

  • Guaranteed upgrades when you reserve using the midsize rate for rentals in the U.S. and Canada.

  • Members-only discounts.

You’ll have to sign in to your American Express account and navigate to the Benefits Dashboard to register for automatic elite status, and you’ll need to input a code from that website when booking to receive upgrades and discounts on your next car rental.

Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card

Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card
NerdWallet rating 
Learn More

Travelers with the Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card are eligible to get President’s Circle Status in the Hertz car rental company’s rewards program, Hertz Gold Plus Rewards. This is the highest tier of status with Hertz.

Benefits include:

  • Guaranteed upgrades.

  • A 50% bonus on earning Hertz Gold Plus Rewards points.

  • The ability to bypass the rental car counter.

United Club℠ Infinite Card and United MileagePlus Presidential Plus card

Chase United MileagePlus(R) Club Card Credit Card
NerdWallet rating 
Learn More

If you have one of these cards in your wallet, you’re automatically qualified for President’s Circle Status in the Hertz car rental company’s rewards program, Hertz Gold Plus Rewards.

Benefits include:

  • Guaranteed upgrades.

  • A 50% bonus on earning Hertz Gold Plus Rewards points.

  • The ability to bypass the rental car counter.

You’ll have to enroll online to earn those benefits.

Visa Infinite credit cards (including the U.S. Bank Altitude™ Reserve Visa Infinite® Card and the Chase Sapphire Reserve®)

U.S. Bank Altitude™ Reserve Visa Infinite® Card
NerdWallet rating 
Learn More
Chase Chase Sapphire Reserve Credit Card
NerdWallet rating 
Learn More

Credit cards that are a part of the Visa Infinite program entitle you to upgrades, discounts and elite status with the car rental loyalty programs from four rental car companies: Avis, Hertz, National and Silvercar. Visa Infinite cards include the U.S. Bank Altitude™ Reserve Visa Infinite® Card and the Chase Sapphire Reserve®. Here are the benefits you can expect:

Avis: As a Visa Infinite cardholder, you’ll see savings of up to 30% off base rates on qualifying rentals, free weekend rentals and up to 10% off base rates on Select Series rentals. You’ll need to call Visa Infinite Concierge or visit the Avis website for Visa Infinite cardholders to book rental cars at the discounted rate.

Additionally, you’ll get automatic enrollment as an Avis Preferred Plus status holder, which is the higher of the two tiers of the Avis rental car loyalty program. Its perks include:

  • A free, single car class upgrade upon availability.

  • The ability to earn additional bonus points on each rental.

  • Access to exclusive offers and promotional discounts.

Hertz: When you hold a Visa Infinite card and enroll in the Hertz Gold Plus Rewards program, you’ll get benefits including discounts, faster service, extra hours on returns for U.S. rentals and extra bonus points in the Hertz Gold Plus Rewards program to more quickly work your way toward free rentals. Enroll through the Hertz website for Visa Infinite cardholders.

National: When you book a National rental car through Visa Infinite’s page, you’ll save up to 25% on qualifying car rentals at participating locations in the U.S., Canada, Latin America and the Caribbean.

You’ll also receive complimentary Emerald Club Executive level membership, which is the middle of the three Emerald Club elite status tiers. ​​Benefits include:

  • No second driver fees.

  • A faster earnings rate toward free rental days.

  • Guaranteed upgrades when you reserve using the Midsize rate for rentals in the U.S. and Canada.

  • Members-only discounts.

Silvercar by Audi: Silvercar is a bit of an unconventional rental car company where you rent Audi sedans and SUVs from select Audi dealerships (plus a few other rental locations) across the country. Book a Silvercar through the Visa Infinite page (and pay with that card) to save a minimum of 10% (and sometimes up to 30%) off the price of your rental.

World Elite Mastercards

If you have certain Mastercards, you’ll be entitled to car rental perks at rental car companies including Avis, Hertz and Sixt. Some eligible World Elite Mastercards include:

Avis: As a World Elite Mastercard owner, you’ll see savings of up to 35% off base rates on qualifying rentals and free upgrades. Additionally, you’ll receive all the same benefits that Avis President’s Club members receive. That’s pretty incredible, considering President’s Club is otherwise an invitation-only tier. Benefits of President’s Club status include:

  • Double upgrades on weekends, when available.

  • Guaranteed upgrades on weekdays.

  • Priority for availability.

  • Free additional driver.

Hertz: If you have a World Elite Mastercard, then you’re automatically qualified for President’s Circle Status in the Hertz car rental company’s rewards program, Hertz Gold Plus Rewards.

Benefits include:

  • Guaranteed upgrades.

  • A 50% bonus on earning Hertz Gold Plus Rewards points.

  • The ability to bypass the rental car counter.

Enroll online through the Hertz/World Elite Mastercard page to earn those benefits.

Sixt: When you rent a car with Sixt, you’ll save a minimum of 15% (and sometimes up to 25%) off the price of your rental.

If a standard rental car isn’t fancy enough for you, consider a limousine. When you use Sixt Limousine Service, you’ll save 15% on chauffeured cars and receive a $50 voucher toward your next chauffeured service with select providers).

Other credit card car rental perks

The elite status and discounts are nice, but those aren’t the other car rental-related credit card perks you should be thinking about before you hit the road. Perhaps even more valuable than saving a few minutes skipping the line is skipping significantly more headache should you get in an accident with your rental car.

Some credit cards offer varying degrees of car rental insurance when you pay for the rental with that card. If your card does offer this, it’s most likely you’ll get a collision damage waiver or loss damage waiver (which is otherwise the expensive coverage the person at the rental counter will often try to get you to pay for). Your credit card may also offer a degree of coverage for expenses like towing, administrative fees and loss of use (which is a fee owed to the rental company for time its car is unusable while damage is being repaired).

The bottom line

Some of the best travel credit cards can greatly improve your car renting experience — and save you money in the process. And some cards, like the Chase Sapphire Reserve®, are especially excellent for not just offering upgrades, discounts and improved service at certain car rental companies, but also serving as primary insurance (as long as you decline the rental company’s collision insurance) when you rent.

Renting a car can certainly be a headache, but it doesn’t have to be. When you hold certain credit cards, you could find yourself with elite status, discounts, upgrades and more.


How to maximize your rewards

You want a travel credit card that prioritizes what’s important to you. Here are our picks for the best travel credit cards of 2021, including those best for:

Get more smart money moves – straight to your inbox
Sign up and we’ll send you Nerdy articles about the money topics that matter most to you along with other ways to help you get more from your money.